Among the new “Big Car” class of racecars getting sorted out during pre-season practices at Langford Speedway for the coming 1947 season was the #64 of Johnny Dalby and Don Reid. Over the course of these sessions, the car’s driver, Pike Green, couldn’t help but notice a friendly teenager who always seemed to be present when the car was in the pits. His curiosity grew to the point that he asked who the young kid was, to which Johnny Dalby replied, “I think he said his name is Grant King and he’s not bothering anyone, but the nutty kid thinks he’s going to build a racecar and there’s no need to discourage him.”. In relating this story many years later in a letter he penned for Grant’s “Hall of Fame” induction ceremony, Pike noted that in light of the highly successful racecar building career that subsequently unfolded for the polite young man with the pencil, notepad and tape measure, Dalby’s reply was one of auto racing’s “understatements of all time”. Indeed, truer words were never spoken!
Emigrating from China in the 1930’s with his parents and 8 older siblings, young Grant developed an interest in all things mechanical and was taken under the wing of his brother Len who ran a Victoria auto repair business. Learning the intricacies of mechanics, Grant then became attracted to auto racing after a Big Car was left for off-season storage in Len’s shop. He started attending the races at Langford and began to plan the building of his own racer. Following his close study of the Dalby car, which included the young would-be fabricator taking detailed measurements and recording his findings, the following 1948 racing season saw yet one more addition to Langford’s Big Car roster. One can only imagine the shock and surprise of the many well-seasoned racers when they first set eyes on Grant’s creation and found a clean-lined and well-crafted car which featured a hand-formed aluminum body and a 4 cylinder Ford engine complete with a “Miller/Schofield” cylinder head, and all of it done by a mere 16 year old! Bung Eng was Grant’s driver for that 1st season, the highlight of which was Bung’s winning of the main event on July 31st. He also drove for Grant the following year, after which King bought that season’s #1 car and put Bob Simpson behind the wheel.
With the closure of Langford Speedway at the end of the 1950 season, racing then shifted to Duncan’s “Shearing Speedway” with Grant’s involvement including the building up of a 1940 Mercury coupe for the “Stockcar” class with former Langford Speedway owner Bruce Passmore as it’s owner and driver. Also competing in this division was an up-and-coming 19 year old named Dick Varley.
Western Speedway’s 1954 opening brought racing back to the Victoria area with Grant continuing to field a Big Car. In 1957, he also built a Stockcar with Ed Kostenuk as driver. Dick Varley was also still very successfully competing and he and Grant agreed to join forces for the following season with Grant building a ’34 Ford coupe with a flathead Ford V8 engine and securing “Kersey’s”, a Victoria food firm that made peanut butter, as a sponsor. Their 1st season ended with Dick guiding the car to 2nd place in the points standings. Advantageous rule changes for the 1959 season saw Grant switch to a 1933 Chevy coupe powered by an inline “GMC” 6 cylinder engine, a powerplant he already had experience with in his Big Cars. His ingenuity and progressive thinking also prompted him to add several innovative features to the car’s chassis which unfortunately violated the “stock appearing” rule book provision and got the car banned from Nanaimo’s “Grandview Bowl” speedway plus the local club, VITRA, also requested he drop these illegal “features”. Despite the controversies and missed races, Dick and Grant still managed an 8th place season points finish. As well as the Stockcar plus the Big Car he continued to run with Bob Simpson as driver, Grant also began fabricating “gokarts”, which were becoming popular at the time, calling his version the “KINGGOKART”. Experiencing less controversy with the Stockcar the following year, they finished in 4th spot and capped their partnership off at the close of the 1961 season with another 4th place standing.
Grant then built 4 sprint cars in 1963/64 in a large building owned by local Gordon Head racing enthusiast Geoff Vantreight and also assisted Portland car builder Rolla Vollstead with a freshly-built rear engine Indy car which was to be driven by Len Sutton. After working with Rolla, the “Jim Robbins” team and “Granatelli/STP Racing”, Grant moved to Indianapolis and opened his own fabrication shop and in 1970 formed his own company, “Grant King Racers”, where in the years that followed he fabricated over 250 racers of various types as well as entering cars in the annual “Indy 500”. His influence helped to bring several Pacific Northwest “CAMRA” drivers to Indy including Billy Foster, Art Pollard, Jim Malloy and Tom Sneva. Other well-known drivers associated with Grant’s Indy teams included Lee Roy Yarbrough, Greg Weld, Larry Dickson, George Follmer, Steve Krisiloff, Bentley Warren, Sheldon Kinser, John Martin, Bob Harkey and Gary Bettenhausen.
Grant was co-promoter of the 1970 “Pole Day Sprint” show at “Indianapolis Raceway Park”, which he continued for many years. Sprint and champ dirt cars were always Grant’s passion and he subsequently restored cars which he had originally built.
In addition to his induction into the “Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame” in 1994, Grant was also inducted into the “Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame” in 1999. Here is a link to his page on their website: https://www.gvshof.ca/inductees-2/all-inductees/21-motor-sports/59-grant-king-1999.html
Also in 1999, Grant received an induction into the “Canadian Motorsp0rts Hall of Fame”. Here is the link to his page: https://cmhf.ca/grant-king/
Sadly, Grant’s untimely passing also came in 1999 from injuries he received in a traffic accident in Indiana.